Monday, January 6, 2020

Ten Tips for Advocacy & Self Love to Carry With You Over the Next Ten Years

“Ten Tips for Advocacy and Self Love To Carry With You Over the Next Ten Years”
Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday surrounded by your family and friends! I know I did! As we approach the end and beginning of a decade, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve grown over the last ten years. And man, have I CHANGED. In 2009-2010 I was in my sophomore year of high school. I was experiencing a lot of challenges with my condition, not just visually, but in every aspect. I was working really hard to navigate my peer relationships, do well in school, balance my life... plus manage my ever fluctuating SOD (septo-optic dysplasia). I’ve written before about the challenges I faced during my teenage years and how that time often felt like it was never going to end...

 BUT IT DID!!! There were still hard moments over the years but since then I have accomplished a lot! I successfully graduated both high school and college within the normal time frame. I have traveled to and spent time living in twelve different states (some more than once), one foreign country, and one tropical island. I worked on over fifty productions both on and off the stage. I got my first white cane and pair of glasses. I danced on the stage at Radio City Music Hall. I climbed three different literal mountains and more figurative mountains than i can name. I got my first professional teaching job. I learned to be independent AND interdependent. I fell in love. And the list keeps going! 

But this is life. It isn’t all sunshine and happiness all of the time. And I would be lying if I said that for all the joy, succsss, and adventure this decade brought me- it’s kind of come full circle. I started the decade in a rough spot and I’m ending it that way too.

But I’m hopeful that just like the past ten years, the next ten will bring so many wonderful opportunities. And as i reflect on the past decade and prepare for the new, I have Ten Tips to share with you to hopefully inspire you to live your best life, advocate for your success, and love yourself a little more in the years ahead! (They are a little long so bare with me!)

  1. Every part of you is something to celebrate. It can be tempting sometimes to try and “hide” your vision impairment. But why?? Everyone has something going on in their life or something about them that makes them unique or special. And yours just happens to be your vision! Embrace it! Once you accept yourself and celebrate all the elements that make you who you are, it will be hard for others not to follow suit!
  2. You are your own worst enemy-not sighted people. It’s easy to feel like because sighted people don’t always understand you that they are against you. This is SO NOT TRUE. Most sighted people just don’t get it initially. But once you explain you’re vision, there is so much opportunity to create a dynamic relationship! Thinking that because they may not understand means they can’t or don’t want to understand you will only do you a disservice. You could miss out on incredible connections, friendships, and opportunities. Don’t let your own insecurities and anxieties about how they may view you get in your way. Which brings me to my next point....
  3. Stop worrying so much! Life is way too short to let anxiety and insecurity rule your daily life. You are so capable and deserve to have every possible experience life has to offer. The only one holding you back from taking those chances and leaps of faith is you! I know it can be scary and anxiety inducing thinking about all of the potential “no”s you will hear or the ones you’ve already heard. But don’t let those rule your world. Find every opportunity to take that “No”and turn it into a “YES”!
  4. It’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes though, despite our best efforts, there are some things we just cannot do. And it’s okay to feel that. It’s okay to be sad about that. Sometimes things happen that are genuinely really awful. The only way to truly move forward is to let yourself feel those sad and bad feelings. Eventually you will grow through it. Eventually you will be able to use that as fuel to persevere. But in the meantime, if you are having trouble moving on.... have a good cry. Eat that pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Call your best friend and vent about it. Allow yourself that time to process so that you can come back stronger than ever.
  5. It’s okay to let go. Sometimes things in our life no longer serve us anymore, or no longer fit in with our plan. Whether it’s moving on from a place, or saying goodbye to a friendship; sometimes holding on to tightly can only do more damage. It’s okay to let go of the things that don’t support you anymore. People grow, circumstances change. And there is nothing wrong with that. Allow yourself the freedom to move forward and maybe leave some things behind.
  6. Asking for help isn’t a bad thing. You are strong. You are capable. You can do anything. But we don’t always feel that way. And in those moments it’s more than acceptable to ask for help and lean on someone else for a minute. Surround yourself with people who lift you up when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. And remember that you can do the same for them. That’s what support is all about; being there for each other to help each other through!
  7. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. It’s easy to feel sometimes like you are stuck. When things go wrong, or if you’re feeling down, it can be easy to live in the discouragement. But I firmly believe that if you trust in yourself and the support of those around you, you will find yourself standing taller than ever before. Life knocks us down. And it can be devastating. But the more we fall, each time we end up standing a little taller,  with our head held a little higher. Each time we fall is a chance to learn and grow. It may take us sometime to get ourselves up. It may take us some time to heal. During my hard moments this is the mantra i use to help myself remember how strong I am. And i push myself to get up and keep going. I hope that you can use this phrase to get you through any of the moments where you feel like you can’t stand up anymore- you’ve fallen down seven times. But you will stand up eight!
  8. Create your own way. This phrase has been on my mind so much, especially for the past few months. A friend of mine, Tara Llewelyn, who has had an incredibly successful career as a Broadway dresser is my current inspiration and motivation to live this phrase out. Throughout her time living in New York, Tara has definitely had her share of struggles. But despite any doubts or discouragements, she has risen up and used those moments as fuel to get creative and make something happen for herself. Tara is also a performer, which can be a challenging path. She has had many successful auditions and performed in many pieces in the city. But like every performer, there have been periods where she was said “no” to. And those are the moments in which Tara has truly thrived. She wrote and starred in her own one woman cabaret, “Seams and Songs” which she has revamped and reprised multiple times in venues throughout NYC and Connecticut. Most recently, she wrote, produced, starred in, and is currently working on post production edits of the pilot for her new television series, “Under The Influence”. She is also an avid blogger and always up for an adventure. Watching this friend of mine take life into her own hands has been  amazing and has inspired me to do the same. I’ve been writing more, singing more, and doing my best to use the talents I have to make opportunities! And so moving forward I hope that in moments where you feel stuck or unsure that you too will take life into your own hands and “create your own way”!
  9. You really do only live once. Piggy backing off of that last one, when creating your own way don’t forget to take chances and try the things you’ve always wanted to. Over the past ten years, i have lost too many people. My community back hone lost two little angels who hadn’t even gotten to really experience life yet. I lost my dear teachers (Pam Diana, Ms. Helen, Louise Neistat, John Ayres). I lost a dear friend, LeRoy Walton. I lost three of my loving uncles. I lost my great grandfather. I lost my grandfather. I lost my sweet aunt. As I think back on all of the loss, I am reminded of how precious life is. It really is just too short, and though this phrase has become something rather comical, there is some serious truth to it. You really do only live once. So why waste it? Why waste the time you have waiting for something to happen? Go out there and do it! If there is something you’ve wanted to do but just haven’t gotten around to it or are nervous about it- get up, get out, and go do it! I had been saying for years that i wanted to try sky diving. It had always been in the back of my mind. But I kept telling myself it’s nice to think about but there’s no way I’ll actually do that. Then in 2018, my grandfather passed away. And shortly after that my dad and i were listening to “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. I’ve heard this song before, but this time it was different. I thought about all of the things my grandfather did and didn’t get to do. I wondered if he would have things he wished he had done. And in that moment I decided that I wasn’t going to waste a minute. So you know what I did? Later that year, I went skydiving. So go do it. Go skydiving. Go Rocky Mountain climbing. Love deeper. Speak sweeter. Give forgiveness you’ve been denying. Life is too short not to and you only live once.
  10. Stay Ambitious! The catch phrase of my blog and my mantra for the next decade. I hope that you all never lose your ambition. We all have goals and dreams and the key to achieving them is through pure determination and ambition! Hold on to those dreams and goals. Don’t let bumps in the road scare you from following it still. I urge you all to live ambitiously. Take chances. Say yes. Fail. Try again. Today again, again. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel. Let things go. Fall down seven times. Stand up eight. Create your own way. Live ambitiously because you only have one life to do so! Use your ambition to turn the things you wish you did into the things you DID! Adventure is out there.... no go and get it!

Thanks for reading, friends! I wish you all so much love and happiness in the new year that I hope stays with you throughout the decade! Cheers to ten new years to chase your dreams, achieve those goals, and create the best and most exciting life for yourself! Your vision may not be 20/20, but that doesn’t mean 2020 can’t be the year to find your vision for life!

Stay Ambitious,
Frankie Ann

Monday, December 23, 2019

How To Communicate Your Vision Impairment In a Professional Setting

How to communicate your vision impairment in a professional setting with Blind Ambition

Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed last week’s post and that it was helpful to you or your students! Today I want to continue that topic but take it one step further. Now that you have a framework of explaining your vision to someone who might not fully understand that is comfortable for you, how do you carry that over to a professional setting?

Whether it’s your first day at a new job or meeting a new professor, professional interactions are difficult for EVERYONE to navigate. So don’t worry friends, you’re really not alone on this one! This encounters can trigger so much anxiety, anticipation, and uncertainty. It’s a fine line of presenting the best you and maintaining a professional demeanor... and that can be really hard to balance! Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience and had a lot of opportunities (some successful, some not so much) to test the waters in this area. Here’s a list of tips and some of my own stories to hopefully help you in your professional interactions moving forward!

  1. Put it in writing. I have found especially during my college years that this was really helpful for my professors and other administrators i encountered. What i ended up doing with the help of my VRT (hi Robbin) was look at my current vision statement and think about the aspects of my vision impairment that would actually impact my ability to take the course or do the job. From there, we came up with a billeted list of accommodations that I would need, and ended it with a basic summary and thanks! The basic format of the letter is: Intro paragraph introducing yourself (my name is and i am a student in your writing class this semester) and your disability.  Bullet Pointed list of necessary, clear accommodations you require (keep the language simple and concise!). Closing paragraph sharing your openness to questions and thanking them for working with you! This letter is important as it will serve as your professor/employer’s reference on how to help you succeed. If they cannot connect with you in order to ask you personally, they now have something they can look at on their own!
  2. Hand deliver it, and introduce yourself in person.Now that you have it all written down, it’s important that YOU ARE THE ONE who gives it to your professor/employer. Your VR counselors are there to help you and support you, but the work all comes down to you! I like to think of it as just meeting someone new. Typically i wait until the first class or day is done because then I have a better idea of what to expect, how the class is run, what will be applicable, etc. i then wait until the professor/supervisor is available and ask them if they have a moment to talk. I then introduce myself and share that I have a disability and hand them my statement. I take a moment to go over a few highlights of it, emphasize things i CAN do “I can read print, it’s easier though...” and then end with a positive statement.”I’m really excited to be taking your class/working with you! Is there anything i can clarify for you?” From there it’s smooth sailing! If they have questions, they’ll ask! 
  3. Be open to their questions. I have found that the best professional interactions are ones where my supervisor or professor asked questions and we created plans/solutions to potential problems together! If they don’t have questions right away, that’s okay. But they may come up. Be open to this. Showing them that you don’t mind answering their questions creates a trusting relationship. And this will help your employer/professor to feel more comfortable talking and working with you to do the best that you can!
  4. Team work makes the dream work! As important as it is to take pride in the things you can do and be independent, it is equally as important to accept the help you may need, and balance interdependence. Trust your professional colleagues and superiors in this way. They are not your enemy. They do not want you to fail. Once in a blue moon I’ve come across a professor who didn’t try to understand and work with me. So what did i do? I turned to those who did, and used them to help me. And in the end it all worked out. I passed the class and though the professor and i may not have totally seen eye to eye (pun definitely intended), i showed him just what i was capable of with the help of those who knew it too. With the support and collaboration of your professional colleagues and supervisors, you will rise to the challenge and achieve success!

This is a topic that I can write about forever. There’s so much to it and so much to cover, but for now I hope you found these basic tips helpful! I will definitely be writing more posts about specific areas related to this subject, like the job interview process. Next week though, I’m going to shake things up. As we get ready to say goodbye to 2019 and a whole decade, I’ll be sharing “Ten Tips for Advocacy and Self Love to Carry With You Over the Next Ten Years”! Until then, please feel free to share any stories, thoughts, or questions in the comments and be sure to follow @blindambitionblog on Instagram for a Twelve Days Til Christmas countdown! Happy Holidays, and remember....

Stay Ambitious,
Frankie Ann

Sunday, December 15, 2019

“Vision Statements: How Do You Explain Your Vision Impairment to Someone Who is Sighted or Just Doesn’t Get it?”

graphic that says Hi everyone! Today, I’m going to be talking about something that I’ve spent the past twenty-plus years trying to navigate. It’s something that I’m constantly updating, editing and reworking. It’s what i like to call my “vision statement” or my first step to advocacy. A vision statement is the basic explanation of my vision impairment to someone who may not fully understand. Once I started using a vision statement to help me explain my vision impairment to others, I felt my confidence and comfortability in talking about it growing tremendously. It became easier to stand with pride and talk about my vision, and help others to understand this important part of me!  The idea of legal blindness is hard for people to comprehend because in a lot of ways it is a grey area. There are some things I can see, some things I can’t and for those who aren’t familiar with it, that can be super confusing. What made it even more confusing is when they asked me about my vision, I started throwing medical terms at them that I had studied and made sense to me, but to them it sounded like a foreign language.  So how do you do it? How do you help the sighted people in your life to grasp what your vision impairment means and what it consists of without making it awkward and uncomfortable for both you and them? I’ve come up with five steps to create a clear and concise Vision Statement to share with those in your life who don’t quite get it, but desperately want to!  1. Keep it short. The only thing more awkward than you not knowing what to say when asked about your vision, is if you talk FOREVER about your vision. People want to understand but again- the more language you use, the more “formal” you make the initial conversation, the more confusing it can be. Keep it short and sweet: three-five sentences that capture the most essential parts of your vision impairment! And then if they have questions or want to keep talking, that’s great, but the clearer and more concise you can make it the easier it is for them to initially understand.  2. Show them! In my first sentence of my vision statement, I ask people to put on “binoculars”. I do this to show them what tunnel vision is. This helps them to really visualize what it is you’re talking about and makes the conversation more dynamic. If this is a person who is less familiar to you, i would demonstrate the binoculars myself and say “well my vision is kind of like if you put your hands to your face as if you were pretending to look through binoculars.” By doing it myself, that sometimes prompts the other person to do it too! And it becomes a more interesting way for them to experience an aspect of what my vision is like.  3. Pick an analogy that sighted people might easily be able to understand. I will never forget the first time my dad explained to me the difference between High Definition and standard television. The way he talked about the difference in quality of the image reminded me so much of what it sounded like to me when sighted people described their vision. I thought of how for me, the outlines of people and objects are usually ill defined or blurred together. And i imagine for sighted people that isn’t the case. So now after asking them to put their binoculars on, I say “you know how when you’re watching tv, and you change the channel from a standard definition station to HD? Well let’s just say my vision is standard definition- kind of fuzzy/blurry not super defined. And yours is HD!”  4. Simple facts are your friend! Next, i list three things about my vision that are super simple and could be written out in bullet point format. For example.... •I have night blindness. •I have no depth perception. •I read large print and sometimes use a cane. I picked these three because these are the ones that would most pertain to my relationship with the sighted person. Because of my night blindness i might need their help to guide me in the dark. Because of my poor depth perception i might need them to let me know if there is a car coming when i go to cross the street. And lastly, it’s important to identify if your a print reader or cane user because that helps them to understand an aspect of what you can see! It’s tangible and something that is easier for others to get.  5. Let them ask questions! Often times after I’ve given my vision statement, i can tell people are still curious and have more questions. So I’ll sometimes say “is there anything you want to ask me?” Or “if you want to ask a question that’s okay! If not that’s cool too... let’s get some ice cream!” Just let yourself be comfortable in your own skin. This isn’t something to be ashamed of or intimidated by. Your vision impairment is a part of you. And though the sighted people in your life may not totally understand, they care about you and want to do what they can to support you and also to try their best to understand you. But in order to do so, you have to let them in a little bit.   And that’s that! I hope this was helpful! Next week, I’ll be talking a little bit more about vision statements but on a more professional level: “How Do I Communicate My Vision Impairment in an Interview or Professional Setting?” Until then, i hope you all have a great week! If you have any questions about these tips please feel free to leave them in the comments! I’ll be sure to respond! Thanks for reading!  Stay Ambitious, Frankie Ann
Hi everyone! Today, I’m going to be talking about something that I’ve spent the past twenty-plus years trying to navigate. It’s something that I’m constantly updating, editing and reworking. It’s what i like to call my “vision statement” or my first step to advocacy. A vision statement is the basic explanation of my vision impairment to someone who may not fully understand. Once I started using a vision statement to help me explain my vision impairment to others, I felt my confidence and comfortability in talking about it growing tremendously. It became easier to stand with pride and talk about my vision, and help others to understand this important part of me!

The idea of legal blindness is hard for people to comprehend because in a lot of ways it is a grey area. There are some things I can see, some things I can’t and for those who aren’t familiar with it, that can be super confusing. What made it even more confusing is when they asked me about my vision, I started throwing medical terms at them that I had studied and made sense to me, but to them it sounded like a foreign language.

So how do you do it? How do you help the sighted people in your life to grasp what your vision impairment means and what it consists of without making it awkward and uncomfortable for both you and them? I’ve come up with five steps to create a clear and concise Vision Statement to share with those in your life who don’t quite get it, but desperately want to!

1. Keep it short. The only thing more awkward than you not knowing what to say when asked about your vision, is if you talk FOREVER about your vision. People want to understand but again- the more language you use, the more “formal” you make the initial conversation, the more confusing it can be. Keep it short and sweet: three-five sentences that capture the most essential parts of your vision impairment! And then if they have questions or want to keep talking, that’s great, but the clearer and more concise you can make it the easier it is for them to initially understand.

2. Show them! In my first sentence of my vision statement, I ask people to put on “binoculars”. I do this to show them what tunnel vision is. This helps them to really visualize what it is you’re talking about and makes the conversation more dynamic. If this is a person who is less familiar to you, i would demonstrate the binoculars myself and say “well my vision is kind of like if you put your hands to your face as if you were pretending to look through binoculars.” By doing it myself, that sometimes prompts the other person to do it too! And it becomes a more interesting way for them to experience an aspect of what my vision is like.

3. Pick an analogy that sighted people might easily be able to understand. I will never forget the first time my dad explained to me the difference between High Definition and standard television. The way he talked about the difference in quality of the image reminded me so much of what it sounded like to me when sighted people described their vision. I thought of how for me, the outlines of people and objects are usually ill defined or blurred together. And i imagine for sighted people that isn’t the case. So now after asking them to put their binoculars on, I say “you know how when you’re watching tv, and you change the channel from a standard definition station to HD? Well let’s just say my vision is standard definition- kind of fuzzy/blurry not super defined. And yours is HD!”

4. Simple facts are your friend! Next, i list three things about my vision that are super simple and could be written out in bullet point format. For example.... 
•I have night blindness. 
•I have no depth perception. 
•I read large print and sometimes use a cane. I picked these three because these are the ones that would most pertain to my relationship with the sighted person. Because of my night blindness i might need their help to guide me in the dark. Because of my poor depth perception i might need them to let me know if there is a car coming when i go to cross the street. And lastly, it’s important to identify if you're a print reader or cane user because that helps them to understand an aspect of what you can see! It’s tangible and something that is easier for others to get.

5. Let them ask questions! Often times after I’ve given my vision statement, i can tell people are still curious and have more questions. So I’ll sometimes say “is there anything you want to ask me?” Or “if you want to ask a question that’s okay! If not that’s cool too... let’s get some ice cream!” Just let yourself be comfortable in your own skin. This isn’t something to be ashamed of or intimidated by. Your vision impairment is a part of you. And though the sighted people in your life may not totally understand, they care about you and want to do what they can to support you and also to try their best to understand you. But in order to do so, you have to let them in a little bit. 

And that’s that! I hope this was helpful! Next week, I’ll be talking a little bit more about vision statements but on a more professional level: “How Do I Communicate My Vision Impairment in an Interview or Professional Setting?” Until then, i hope you all have a great week! If you have any questions about these tips please feel free to leave them in the comments! I’ll be sure to respond! Thanks for reading!

Stay Ambitious,
Frankie Ann


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Your New Favorite Read: Blind Ambitition

A turquoise and purple logo that says Blind Ambition with Braille and Large Print font

Hi everyone! My name is Frankie Ann and I am a legally blind, twenty-something who is just trying to live her best blind life! And this is Blind Ambition- a weekly blog column where I will be sharing Accessibility Tips, Expanded Core Curriculum Hacks, Skills for Advocacy, Personal successes, struggles, and so much more!

Here’s a little bit about me! I was born with septo-optic dysplasia which is a really fancy way to say that my optic nerves are underdeveloped. I have poor distance vision (20/400 in my left eye and 20/800 in my right) no peripheral vision (tunnel vision), no depth perception, severe light sensitivity, degrees of night blindness, slight nystagmus, and a partial astigmatism. Mix that all together and you get me: a large print reader (24 print Arial bold font for the win) and partial cane user (at night and in excessively crowded or unfamiliar environments) who has spent her life trying her best to adapt to every situation that comes her way and never back down from a challenge!

I met Robbin back in 2010. At the time, i was going through a serious hard time coping with my vision impairment. I was just about to turn sixteen and while all of my other friends were getting hyped up to get their driver’s licenses, I got my very first white cane and was taking street crossing classes with my Orientation and Mobility instructor.  I felt totally lost, insecure, and frankly embarrassed by my vision impairment. But Robbin helped me to see past all that- both literally and figuratively! She taught me that it’s not about what I could see, but about what I could do. Once that seed was planted, everything changed!

Frankie Ann skydiving with a guide on her back in the air.


an image of Frankie Ann using a rope to pull herself up on a mountain

Though my final high school and college years had their fair share of challenges and hard times, i was equipped with a new found confidence and pride in my self that helped me to rise above and keep pushing through. That confidence helped me to make the decision to leave my home in Connecticut and move to the biggest, busiest, and most visually overstimulating city in the country- New York City! My hope is that by sharing my experiences here, I may be able to help other blind/visually impaired individuals work through their own struggles, find solutions to their challenges, learn that they are DEFINITELY not alone, and chase their dreams!

I am so excited to be launching Blind Ambition! Each week will cover an aspect of living life with a vision impairment. Stay tuned next week for our first topic: “Vision Statements: How Do You Explain Your Vision Impairment to Someone who is Sighted or Just Doesn’t Get It?” In the meantime, follow my Instagram @blindambitionblog for daily posts about Accessibility, Advocacy, and more!

Thanks for reading! I can’t wait to keep sharing with you!

Stay Ambitious,
Frankie Ann

Friday, December 6, 2019

Teach the Expanded Core Using Nutcracker Dolls

 I'm baaaaaaccckkk!! I technically never left. I've just been more on 9MoreThanCore on Instagram. But I've missed my regular blog posts because I have so much to share and talk about. Back to regular posts so keep checking back. I've got a lot of fun stuff to share over the next few months.

A group of a variety different types of Nutcracker dolls sit on a table.
Now onto our topic: Nutcracker dolls. Every year I see Nutcracker dolls and I admire them. This year I was admiring and thinking. How fun would it be to use them for an Expanded Core lesson!? I realized that I could have a fun activity that infuses Expanded Core skills and specifically focuses on career education. Yes!

 As many of you know, these dolls aren't always cheap. They are about $20 each and I had a lot to buy so yikes! No fear here. I bought these at Michael's while they were half off. Then I used my 25% off coupon. Winner, winner chicken dinner! 

There's many different options for teaching.
Here's some ideas:
You can simplify it for younger students and just focus on the key characteristics.
Match the Nutrcracker dolls to pictures of real people.
Give characteristics of a career and allow students to choose the right answer by selecting the correct doll. 
Find real life objects that coordinate with the Nutcracker. 

Remember, use your tools (EVALS and ILSA) to help with identifying skills to infuse that are appropriate for your students. 
A teacher Nutcracker doll with the game sign "What is a school teacher?"
My Nutcracker activity is fun for campus students or around the house at home. I made a game of it. I start the first week of December. Each week I "hide" (in plain sight!) the dolls around my campus with Braille/large print labels so students can learn about a new career. There's a main Nutcracker with a basket. Students find them and write the name & career in whatever mode (Braille, LP or audio) and sign their name. Students put their answers in a basket and I pick winners each week. 

a large traditional Nutcracker doll with a basket and a game sign on how to play the game behind it.
Check out my first four that I "hid" on campus. Note: by hid, I mean they are totally available to be found pretty easy. The objective isn't to have my students randomly feeling everywhere hoping to find one. Each doll has a large print and Braille version (I used my embosser). 


A police officer Nutcracker doll with a Braille and print sign.

A chef  Nutcracker with a game sign in Braille and print.

A doctor Nutcracker doll  with a game sign in Braille and print.

Here is a close up of some of the dolls that I bought. I also bought dolls to teach about recreation & leisure activities.
An army and firefighter Nutcracker dolls

A professor and pizza chef Nutrcracker dolls
 This part is important: pre-teaching is a must! Below is a picture of my high school students exploring the Nutcrackers. Students are invited to check out the features as well as read the information cards. The objective of this game is to explore careers and recreation opportunities.
A female teen and male teens tactually explore two Nutcracker dolls.

Below is a close up of some of the game cards (they are full size 8.5 x 11). 

The game card for Chef Bakewell, the chef Nutcracker doll.

The game card for Doctor Gurnee, the doctor Nutcracker doll.
Okay, I have an idea if you don't have 10-15 Nutcracker dolls. Plan a community based instruction trip to a place like Michaels and have fun there! 
There's so much that you can do. Use your imagination!
Want a copy of my game cards? Send me an email: robbin.keating@gmail.com

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Teach the ECC Using a Hoverboard

a graphic that says "teach the expanded core using a hoverboard"
Teach the Expanded Core using a.....hoverboard? YES! A hoverboard!! Why? How? Huh? Let me start at the beginning. I spent a few weeks mulling over the activities for STEM Camp. I already knew the theme (STEM Camp in the Old Pioneer West) but needed to do my research for other activities. I look for STEM activities that are popular with all kids. I want to keep our students looped in with what their peers are liking. I walked passed a hoverboard while buying some supplies and instantly made a U turn. I was going back for the hoverboard. I had an idea! 

a female student kneels down and checks out a hoverboard
I knew that it would be a total blast to teach my students how to use a hoverboard at STEM Camp. I loved this idea not just because I thought it would be cool but because my ECC lightbulb went off. There were so many things I could teach to build an awesome ECC experience! It was just hoverboards that I purchased, I rounded up different types of helmets, photos and pieces for location and got to work. 
the group of students sit with the teacher on the floor with their legs extended

Before we even got on the hoverboards, we needed to do some serious concept development, STEM instruction and pre-teaching. First, I set the stage and we discussed what everyone knew about hoverboards and all things related to them (helmets, locations, etc). 
Then we get to the STEM of it all. We talked about the parts of the hoverboard, the science of it and how they work. This was a bonus because I could teach STEM and the ECC at the same time. Students learned where to place their feet, how wide the foot pad sensors are and positioning. We sat on the floor and extended our legs to practice tipping our toes and working our heels. I bought different types of helmets on purpose to discuss the features, uses, etc. of the helmets. 

a female student wearing a fun helmet sits on the ground and checks out the hoverboard
Can you see all of the attention I'm giving to the details? Too many times I see teachers just pass the object to a students a move on. I purposely gave students a variety of helmets and bought different brands/types of hoverboards. I wanted them to get a rich experience and concept development. 

a female student sits on the ground and checks out the hoverboard
Can you see how many areas of the ECC we are hitting? I was so excited throughout our initial hoverboard lesson because it was like an ECC buffet! We hit lots of orientation and mobility--from spatial awareness to directionality and balance. (Once students got their balance, we did have them use their canes if they were a cane user). We even hit career education. How? We discussed the rules and earning your dues at the skate park. We also discussed what types of jobs you could have in the skate industry. 
students stand on the hoverboard with teachers standing in front of them holding their hands
Let me share some of my instruction progression on how we taught the hoverboard. Most important, use a chair to get on and off! The very first thing we did was just simply having students stand up, balance and then sit down. Once they could stand up and maintain their balance, I knew they were ready to move on. Students must wear a helmet at all times. 
Students then learned how to move forward and backwards. This was great because they learned a lot about body awareness and control. Each student had an adult staff in close proximity. I also had a teenager who had typical vision there to model, support and talk with students about her experience.

a female student moves forward on a hoverboard
It took all of the students about one full day of hoverboard practicing to grow to mastering it. Everyone, students with low vision to no vision were rocking their skills on the hoverboards! It was awesome to watch my students with no vision cruising along with their canes. They just adjusted their speed and coordinated with their canes to find their way up and down our hallways. 
a male teenager moves on the hoverboard and uses his cane
The next time you are looking for a fun ECC lesson, consider a lesson with a hoverboard! I bought my boards from Walmart. (I actually price matched walmart.com and got an even better price). I purposely bought different boards to compare and contrast. I even bought one with a bluetooth speaker built in!
a male teenager moves on the hoverboard and uses his cane
Another bonus: the confidence that all of our students gained by mastering the hoverboard! Yaaaassss! They learned the physics behind the hoverboard. They were fearless with gaining speed and fluidity. It was just an ECC party with students learning skills a lot of people probably don't think blind kids can do! It's not about what we see, it's about what we do!